GP recruitment problem in region

close up photo of a stethoscope

The South West’s recruitment of GPs is lagging behind other regions – according to research from the House of Commons Library, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats. Simultaneously, the research also shows that wait times are above the national average within the region as well.

The data showed that the number of permanent GPs in the South West had fallen by 2.8%, slightly above the national average, since 2018. The total number of GPs, which includes trainees and locums (a fully qualified GP that fulfils the duties of another, absent, GP within a hospital or doctors surgery), has risen in the region due to the higher number of trainees. 

However, despite the nationally above average fall in permanent GP staff, the total number of GPs and presumptive trainee GPs to replace them in the South West is well below the national average. The growth of GP staff nationally is 7.2% since 2018 but in the South West it is just 2.9%.

This below average replacement rate for GPs in the South West becomes more concerning when the wait times for the different regions are taken into account. 39% of people in the South West are waiting more than a week for a GP appointment and 1 in 4 are waiting more than 14 days for one. These figures are both 5% above the national averages. 

To cope with the increase in demand for GPs across the board these figures need to be improved rapidly. Since January 2019 there has been a 23% increase in the number of GP appointments. In just October of this year alone there were over 36 million appointments. 

The lack of GPs and the overwhelming demand is causing frustration amongst patients which is in turn causing the working conditions inside surgeries to get worse and even less medical students are encouraged to become one. The BMA did a survey of GPs and found that 31% of them had a member of staff in their surgery who had been physically abused by a patient this year.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, commented:

“Our region is being left by this Conservative Government to fend for itself. First our communities have been made to endure exceptionally poor ambulance response times and now the lack of support for our GP services is also revealed.

“For 1 in 4 people to be waiting more than two weeks to be able to see their GP is frankly disgraceful. The Conservaitve Government’s consistent short termism and lack of long term workforce planning has led us to this point. They have left us with a broken care system and what promises to be one of the most challenging winters on record for our NHS.

“It is not just patients who are being let down but also all the staff inside GP surgeries. A lack of Government resources and support means they do not have the tools they need to help people at the speed they would like. It results in them getting unwarranted abuse from frustrated patients when they should be praised for their tireless efforts to look after us. The Government has let our NHS and country down. We will not forget it come the next election.”

Meanwhile, the Metro Mayor’s office is also looking at regional problems in the National Health Service …..

Apparently, 8,900 Bath and NE Somerset residents a month are unable to book a GP appointment when they want one with the overall numbers in England doubling in a year, a damning study suggests.

Hundreds more locals are left waiting over a month to be seen, potentially forcing them to overcrowded A&Es or leaving them at risk of serious diseases being diagnosed too late, according to the analysis of official NHS figures by the Labour Party.

When the Conservatives first entered government, they scrapped the guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours. The Government meanwhile is failing to meet its manifesto pledge to recruit more GPs. Separate figures from the NHS reveal that there are 4,600 fewer GPs today than in 2013.

The findings come as MPs prepare to vote on a motion proposed by Labour to abolish the non-dom tax status to pay for training a new generation of NHS staff – including doubling medical school places to train 15,000 new doctors a year

Metro Mayor, Dan Norris

Responding to the sobering stats, Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s a real struggle for Bath and NE Somerset residents to see their GP when they need to right now – people are spending hours and hours on the phone before being told nothing is available for weeks and weeks. This has knock on effects all over the place. Not getting timely appointments means people wasting their time by sitting for hours and waiting in pain which means conditions worsening and more time off work to recover – all of which is bad for economy and even worse for local people on the receiving end. When I was an MP in the last Labour government, I was proud that we guaranteed a GP appointment within 48 hours. 12 years of Tory failure to train the staff our NHS needs has left us where we are – patients are paying the price. Labour will train a new generation of doctors and nurses, paid for by abolishing non-doms. We need more GPs, more doctors and more nurses – not non-doms”.

In England, the number of people unable to see a GP has rocketed from 2.7million in October 2021 to 5.2million this October, according to Labour’s analysis.